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Painful lessons about how much we don't know

Thursday, March 20, 2014 - Updated: 8:48 AM

We may be as smart as we think we are, but we are nowhere near as prepared as we need to be. Nor are we using all of our smarts in the correct manner.

Or so it seems.

Listening to and reading about today's latest developments in the planet's search for missing Malaysian airliner MH370, it was hard not to yell at the radio and crumple the newspaper.

It was widely reported this morning that ships and planes were headed off to the southern Indian Ocean, some 1,500 miles from Perth, Australia, to determine if a piece of something estimated to be around 80 feet long is indeed a piece of this plane, which has been missing for close to two weeks now.

The television reporters lose their minds at the mere suggestion of a possible new lead in this haystack needle hunt. Time -- a lot of it, apparently, based on this morning's reports -- will tell what has been found.

Meanwhile, our frustration is beginning to drift away from wondering where this plane is and what happened to it. The answers can't be good. We can't help but shake our heads and wonder aloud how -- on a planet surrounded by and covered by so many satellites and cameras that, from another galaxy, must look like seeds on a strawberry -- a giant plane containing more than 200 people can disappear.

How is it that in a world where every one of its residents owns, has access to, or is adjacent to someone with an electronic tracking device (aka cell phone) that not one of these devices can -- or could have been -- used to signal distress. If the answer is that there are no cells where there are airline passengers, then we're doing it wrong.

How is it that a giant airplane with the capability to be tracked, located, or pinged -- whatever you want to call it -- can fill itself with people and head out over massive earth-sized bodies of water, and have that tracking device turned off by someone inside the plane. There should be no buttons, levers or knobs within human reach that can serve to cut communication from the air to the ground. This is reportedly what happened during this flight. If this can be done, then we're doing it wrong.

Regarding the satellite photos that had the world on the edge of its collective seat today: Early reports said the photos -- the latest brand new information -- were taken four days ago. We get pictures from Mars faster than this. We can't blow off a red light in downtown Amsterdam without technology taking our photo and mailing us a traffic ticket, yet it takes four days to get one photo after 239 people vanish from the sky? We're doing this waaaay wrong.

In this post-9/11 world in which our cosmetics, footwear and privates are subject to thorough inspection before we are allowed to board a plane, one would think we would have worked out some of these glaring kinks that have bobbed to the surface in the wake of Flight 370's takeoff two weeks ago.

If we asked, we're sure we'd be told these kinks are being worked out. Because we are as smart as we think we are. We just can't prove it yet. Give us a couple days.

Meanwhile, enjoy your flight. And turn off your cell phone. It interferes with the cockpit.


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